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The Macron government: moving towards management or towards public innovation?


Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (CNAM)

*Faculty member of the Business Science Institute.


Article originally published on The Conversation France

"You have a duty to invent!" is what Emmanuel Macron, then Minister of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Economy, urged students at Sciences Po in July 2015 for the school's graduation ceremony.

In fact, the first signs of his five-year term are placed under the seal of management, presented as an element of renewal of public action. The future "En Marche!" deputies were invested on the basis of a CV and an interview, and then brought together at a "cohesion" seminar at the Quai Branly museum. The government is composed of specialists in their subject, from the business world or from high administration, that has already been said. The composition of the ministerial cabinets, which has just been published, is along the same lines: a limited number of senior civil servants, chosen for their technical or sectoral skills. Gone are the professionals of politics, here come the managers of the State.

Some people cry democratic scandal, since many of these people have never been elected. There is concern about the invasion of private sector practices within the State. Others praise the managerial audacity of the new President of the Republic...

Introducing management in public action: is it really new?

No, this is not new.

In the 1980s (yes, the Mitterrand era!), what was called the new public management appeared in France through the diffusion of the Anglo-Saxon model. The idea was to introduce tools from the business world into public action.

This is how, for example, management control appeared in universities, activity-based accounting in hospitals and territorial marketing.

Since then, a great deal of research, particularly in the field of business sciences, has been carried out. Since then, a large number of studies, particularly in management science, have questioned the relevance of this transposition from the private to the public sector: criteria that are not adapted to a service (palliative care cannot be evaluated on the basis of bed rotation); unmanaged pressure on human resources; instrumentation of management tools (the cult of performance gives power to new functions).

In particular, it has been shown that the implementation of accounting and financial instruments in the public sector actually reflects an underlying vision of the organization and does not recognize the specificity and diversity of public missions.

Yes, it can be innovative... as long as it is thought out in an ecosystem

Public innovation is defined on the website of the General Secretariat for the Modernization of Public Action as

"an administration in motion, which promotes innovation in public services, from the design to the implementation of public policies".

It is still often seen through the prism of managerial innovation applied to the public sector at the level of tools and organization, which limits both its relevance and its scope, as we have just seen.

On the other hand, when thought in terms of influence and co-construction, the introduction of management in public action can be innovative.

First of all, it is a question of optimizing the influence of companies that develop political strategies aimed at public decision-makers. Of course, lobbying is worrying for its drifts and has recently been regulated in France by the Sapin 2 law. Yet, these private strategies can impact public policies... sometimes in innovative ways.

For example, among the 2016 winners of the national observatory of public innovation, Territoria, is the City Hall of the 9th district of Paris (a public actor), which proposed a collaboration with the National Federation of Real Estate (Fnaim) (a private actor linked to the profit sector). These two actors have agreed to carry out a sustainable development action with the residents aiming to set up a selective sorting or to participate in the greening of the district.

Moreover, citizens, individually or through associations, will be brought to intervene. They are no longer simply objects of public management but also subjects. Theories of the reception of public action show that "citizens" [recipients of public policy] can be co-producers of public action. Territories, which are conducive to experimentation, are sometimes described as "highly citizen-oriented".

Networks of actors and tools exist to promote this local democracy. It goes without saying that the Internet and social networks catalyze citizen intervention in the making of public policy by promoting access to information and the capacity to mobilize everyone.

The notion of service design is often used to characterize the intervention of users in the process of co-construction of public policies. For example, in the area of early childhood policy, parents are involved in the reform of the allocation of crèche places in Orléans, through creativity workshops that would not be denied by a start-up.

And the denial of democracy you say?

Will we no longer have a worker at Matignon? Perhaps not, but a former worker who has passed through continuing education is possible, a worker's child who has passed through the school of the Republic is probable. It is therefore the quality of the training of public managers that should be addressed in the short term; equal opportunities in national education as well as the place of continuing education in higher education should be addressed in the longer term.

Minister Frédérique Vidal, Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, the public innovation of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow is in your hands!

Article translated from French with


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